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"Lights-out" Faulk holds the torch high
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Jan. 08 2005
SEATTLE - As Rams rookie running back Steven Jackson noted this past week,
sometime in the not-so-distant future the torch will pass to him from Marshall
Faulk. But Faulk isn't ready to loosen his grip just yet.
Faulk didn't put up anywhere near the biggest numbers of his illustrious
11-year career Saturday in the Rams' gritty 27-20 win over Seattle. But with
the first-round playoff game tied in the fourth quarter at Qwest Field, it was
Faulk's light that led the way to the end zone.
"Marshall's the best," fullback Joey Goodspeed said. "When the game's on the
line, there's no one I'd rather have in the game than Marshall."
By his Hall of Fame standards, Faulk's production was modest: 55 rushing yards
on 13 carries, 12 receiving yards on two catches. But his impact on the Rams'
first postseason win since the 2001 season was much greater.
"I've got to tell you, Marshall was lights-out in this game," coach Mike Martz
said. "Just absolutely lights-out."
That was most evident on the Rams' final possession, which began at their
24-yard line with the score 20-20 and 5 minutes 42 seconds remaining in the
fourth quarter. A 31-yard swing pass from quarterback Marc Bulger to wideout
Shaun McDonald fueled the march, and a 13-yard gain on a Bulger strike to Kevin
Curtis was crucial, too.
Bulger's 17-yard toss to leaping tight end Cam Cleeland in the end zone ended
the seven-play, 76-yard march and put the Rams up 27-20 with 2:11 to go.
But it was Faulk's workmanlike production that kept the Seahawks defenders
honest, allowing Bulger and his targets more room to work. With Jackson
watching from the sideline, Faulk carried four times - 5 yards up the middle, 3
on a draw play, 4 off right tackle, 3 off right guard. Nothing spectacular,
just mistake-free, positive yardage.
"We needed to get some first downs running the ball and take some time off the
clock, and we did," Goodspeed said.
Faulk, who will turn 32 next month, has bristled at times this year at
suggestions that his best days might be behind him. He refused to talk to
reporters after Saturday's win.
Statistically, Faulk's contributions have declined in each of the past five
seasons, a period in which injuries significantly have limited his playing
time. He last made it through a full 16-game regular season in 1999.
Still, he has been the Rams' leading rusher in each of the past six seasons,
including this one. He played in 14 regular-season games, missing two with a
bruised knee, and rushed 195 times for 774 yards - his lowest total since the
Rams acquired him in a trade with Indianapolis after the '98 season.
Jackson, the team's first-round selection and the first back taken in last
spring's draft, had 673 yards on 134 attempts. He got just 10 carries Saturday
- he missed a couple of series after suffering bruised ribs - and picked up 36
With the outcome on the line, Martz went with the veteran.
"It's always nice to know that (Faulk is) out there," guard Adam Timmerman
said. "He's a leader on the field, and he makes reads better than anybody. He'd
probably tell you he'd like to make them just a little bit quicker, but . . .
age catches up with you at some point."
Maybe not quite yet, though, for Faulk. "We've ridden him like a horse for so
long," veteran wideout Isaac Bruce said. "I couldn't imagine being in a huddle